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This Tip Will Help you Master the Breakaway

This Tip Will Help you Master the Breakaway

There’s nothing more thrilling than facing a shooter one-on-one and shutting them down.

Shootouts decide many games and tournaments and they’re your opportunity to steal the show. To be the hero.

Think of the 2014 Olympics, Quick versus Bobrovsky.


When I faced a breakaway or a shootout in AAA and Juniors, I simply “tried my hardest to stop it.”

I’d be really nervous, and I’d be thinking, what if he does this, or what if he does that? The player would pick up the puck and I’d try and grit my way to the save.

I was fortunate to enjoy a lot of success in Juniors, but I never felt in control of a shootout or breakaway. They seemed totally uncontrollable, which is a bad feeling for a goalie!

Then, I got to Cornell University, and my freshman year, in a pre-season intersquad scrimmage, there was a penalty shot called. A very skilled forward would take it against Junior, Ben Scrivens (Montreal Canadiens).

Playing with Ben Scrivens at Cornell, author Michael Garman learned some of "Scrivs'" tricks of the trade. InGoal file photo by Scott Slingsby

Playing with Ben Scrivens at Cornell, author Michael Garman learned some of “Scrivs'” tricks of the trade. InGoal file photo by Scott Slingsby

I went to the bench to watch and our senior captain says, no chance he beats Scrivens on a breakaway.

I was like, wow, how can you say that so confidently?

The forward made three head fakes and some stick magic, he pulled it to the side, shot – GLOVE save. Not even close…

I thought, “how can he be so hard to beat on a breakaway?!”

Fortunately for me, I’d get to see Scrivens’ game, day in and day out, for the next few years. I learned so much from practicing and training with Scrivs, but the most important thing could have been learning how to master breakaways.

One of the moves that Oshie beat Bobrovsky on in the famous Olympic shootout, was a move that Scrivs saved from Oshie a year earlier in the NHL shootout, again, he’s world-class.

Your head angle and eyes are essential elements to mastering breakaways, but I want to focus on one, very important detail, that you can implement right away.

Don’t beat yourself, make them beat you.

Kari Lehtonen

Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen faces down Boston’s Brad Marchand. Photo by Scott Slingsby, InGoal Media

How many times do you see a goalie bite on a head fake or stick fake and go flying out of the net and the player just slides the puck right in?

I know they’re talented, but we’re beating ourselves.

I used to be so worried about getting scored on that if it looked like he was maybe possibly going to shoot, I’d bite, just in case. This made sure I didn’t get beat with an easy one, but it certainly didn’t make a lot of saves.

Usually, it was a fake and they would go right around me for an easy goal.

Then I watched Scrivs. As they would get dangerously close he would wait at or near the top of the crease. They would make a great fake or two, and he just stayed there!

Here’s what’s crazy, they expected him to fade back, to shrink, (like most goalies do), but he stayed big and next thing you know they’re about to run into him.

Usually, the player would be surprised! He would make a panic shot right into Scrivs or try skating around him.

For a goalie, at the top of your crease, a push back to your post is one of the most basic butterfly slides there is, you can do that in your sleep.

If you don’t beat yourself, now you’re forcing the player to beat you.

If you don’t bite early, you are making it WAY harder on them.

This is challenging because it’s uncomfortable. We feel a need to move back and ‘not get beat’ but by retreating early or too quickly, we usually open up holes for goals.

Or, in other words, we beat ourselves.

Trust your skating! The recovery to your post is NOT a difficult move if you’re ready for it.

Commit to forcing them to make the hard move (instead of giving up your ground) and then make the slide that you’ve done thousands of times right to your post.

Once I made this adjustment I could feel myself take control of breakaways. I no longer hoped to make the save or worried what they were going to do.

Remember, we take away their time and space when they get close to us.

By a certain point, if they didn’t shoot, I was ready to stand my ground, force them to commit to a side and simply slide with them.

Skate to the post, eyes down, and gloves extending down to the puck – easy save.

This one adjustment made me incredibly confident facing breakways and it will for you too.

About The Author

Michael Garman

Coach Mike Garman is an international goalie coach and mentor. After retiring from professional hockey, he now coaches and mentors goalies all over the world. To learn more about Mike, please visit and sign up for free pro tips and resources. A lot of his coaching is online with a soon to be released new version of The GoaliebyGarman Academy. You can reach him directly at [email protected]


  1. Ken

    This is great advice because it really simplifies the goalie psychology on a breakaway. However, the only thing I’d counter with is that if you stand your ground, you’re more susceptible to getting beat 5-hole because you may not have enough reaction time to close that hole. Possibly as a solution to this, I’ve seen goalies like Jonathan Quick do a half-butterfly/VH to quickly take the 5-hole away, but it’s not always successful, and limits a smooth push to one side from that half-down position.

  2. Anna longo

    Finally, I found a professional site that is geared to goalies! The information is great but I was wondering if you would consider adding some videos on goalie techniques, eg. what to do in a shootout. I am 54 years old and this is my second winter season playing in net.

    I play as a forward during the summer and found the How To Hockey site amazing. They have videos that teach you so much for players but until now I couldn’t find anything similar for goalies. It would be great to watch what a goalie does in certain situations. I don’t know any of the rules for goalies and discovered on my own where to position myself in a faceoff in my zone. I happened to notice an arrow on each side of the crease line so I assume that is what it’s for (please don’t laugh, I am).

    I also did not know that I could get a penalty if I throw my stick at the puck. I know there are many rules a goalie must follow but I don’t know where to find them. I was told that in a shootout, I am supposed to position myself on the crease line and move forward only after the shooter moves but I don’t know how far to go out and when to start skating back. How much distance do I leave between me and the shooter?

    I would greatly appreciate it if you could direct me to where I could find information such as the above or short videos on techniques. Thank you so much.

    Anna Longo

    • Steve

      Check out USA Hockey goalie resource page (just google it). They have very basic videos that I find helpful.

    • Clare Austin

      Anna, I’m looking for some resources for you. The USA hockey page Steve mentioned is a great one and StopIt Goaltending did a number of videos over the years. Some of those may be more advanced and are more drill oriented.

      As for the question of depth to challenge to on a shootout– there’s not a simple answer. It will depend a lot on how comfortable you feel at specific depths and how good a skater you are. Essentially the hashmarks are too far and the top to the crease is not far enough for your opening depth. Try various depths and see which one gives you the best control over the gap between you and the shooter. For your first experiment, try just above the bottom kf the faceoff circles, and play with it from there. The key is to keep on your angle line and know where your net is. You really have to play with it to figure out what’s right for you.

      • Clare Austin

        And again, the gap is what you’re looking at. You have to react to the shooter’s speed and let that gap close gradually as you move backwards. You want the space between you and the shooter to be at a comfortable distance for you when they finally shoot.

  3. Rob day

    I have taught my goalies the following position model. Start with your heels at the top of the crease and do two QuickC cuts out hold this position until the shooter gets between the top of the circle and the hashmarks and begin to back in try not to back in more than two c cuts perhaps three. This allows you to keep your depth and be in a position to stop a shot and attack a deke. If you attack a deacon then work your butterfly back toward the post on the angle. I like to keep my hands out and keep the park in the center of your stick blade